Landmark Cinemas CEO: “I Love Tentpoles but I Need More Than That”

Speaking Tuesday at the HPA Tech Retreat, the chief executive of the Canada-based theater chain also said he’s not looking to launch virtual reality at his theaters.
Courtesy of RexUSA

Neil Campbell, president/CEO of Canada's Landmark Cinemas, asserted that he needs a steady stream of all types of movies—not just tentpoles—to keep his cinemas healthy.

“I love tentpoles, but I need more than that. It doesn’t pay all the bills and doesn’t take care of all my customers. I need [at least] one new film every Friday,” he said during a frank conversation with entertainment technology professionals Tuesday at the Hollywood Professional Association (formerly Hollywood Post Alliance) Tech Retreat in Palms Springs.

During his session, Campbell confirmed the two areas in which he’s finding the strongest ROI — and it's all about providing a comfortable experience for theatergoers. “All our money is going into recliner seats, because customer satisfaction is through the roof,” he said, adding that after the seats, concession has the strongest ROI.

Asked about offering virtual reality in his theaters, the Landmark exec quickly responded: “Been there, done that. We are not doing that right now.… I have seen the Imax [VR model], and it’s almost identical to what we tried.… After six months we made enough money to pay the staff to run it. We were the wrong venue. To buy a 5-7-minute [VR experience], that time doesn’t exist. When people are leaving, they’re leaving.”

On the new, brighter, laser projection systems now being offered, Campbell noted that he doesn’t yet have a plan for what sort of business model it might take for his theaters to make a transition. He pointed out that some of his existing digital cinema projectors still have five years left on their virtual print fee agreements for funding. He added that right now laser projectors are expensive, and would also need to come down in price.

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